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2020: Five trends driving change in consumer and business behaviours

Posted by Zoe McFarland on 13th November 2019

We’re once again at that time of year when we’re discussing predictions for the year ahead with our clients. And at Wildfire we too are keeping on top of upcoming trends as 2020 approaches.

Some of the team and I recently attended TrendWatching’s Trends for 2020 event. The presentations focused on finding the sweet spot between mounting consumer needs and expectations, and drivers of change and innovations to meet these.

Presenters began by looking at trends of the last decade, focusing on the explosion of populations, city living, travel and digital device usage. Stats included the fact that urbanisation is happening faster than at any time in human history, with 68% of people moving to cities by 2050. GDP per capita is more than 10 times the average of the past, and over half of the world’s population is now online. But at the same time, people are more anxious than more than ever before, in terms of their personal lives, society and the environment — meaning innovations are required.

The five biggest trends

We were taken through five macro themes that are driving change in consumer and business behaviours in 2020 and beyond, including the challenges and ways in which brands are trying to help tackle these.

1.Climate in crisis

It’s no secret that we are destroying our planet and climate change is on the world stage. Figureheads like Greta are making headlines daily and perception-shifting shows like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet have caused people to reduce the amount of disposable plastic they use. The number of people concerned about the environment is at its highest ever level.

Apparel, cars, food — every industry is trying to innovate to accommodate for consumers’ eco desires. But this is on a small scale. Products such as a Tesla, limited-edition trainers or the Burger King Impossible Whopper are only available to the few. These items are more of a status symbol than for the masses. But the pursuit of eco-status has also opened up eco-shame and this is where we’ll see more brands bringing in new products and services and more consumers doing their part where they can.

The Swedish market is way ahead with brand examples including the KLM — Fly Responsibly campaign. Despite being an airline, KLM are encouraging people to always consider if they actually need to fly or if train travel is an option, promoting a shared responsibility to cut CO2. There’s also Doconomy, a credit card that tracks CO2 emissions based on what you buy and stops you from purchasing more if you’ve reached your CO2 limit.

2. The invisible threat of air pollution

Urbanisation and industrialisation have come with a price in terms of air pollution as well. It is five times over the EU limit in some central London locations and WeForum reports that the average person in Europe loses two years of their life due to air pollution. Whether we’re inside or outside, it’s bad either way.

One amazing initiative, which started in Mexico City in March 2019, saw the launch of Absolut Street Trees, where huge murals were painted on the sides of building with Airlite, a type of paint that purifies polluted air (a process much like photosynthesis). These aim to reduce pollution by the amount produced by 60,000 cars a year. IKEA has also announced the development of the Gunrid, an air purifying curtain, which once again has a process like photosynthesis, with minerals in the curtains that break down pollutants when light shines on them.

3.Changing living arrangements

One third of households in the EU are now single-person households according to Eurostat. The three main reasons are an ageing population, a higher rate or divorcees and people choosing to postpone life stages or deciding to be child-free, which is reducing the number of children per household worldwide.

This rise of the single-person household is a new opportunity area for brands. Restaurants designed for solo diners, apartment complexes that target women looking to buy or rent homes on their own, and photography studios offering solo bridal photo shoots are amongst some new services. As for product partnerships, in response to Tweets of people enjoying Cheez-Its and wine, Kellogg and House Wine partnered to offer a picnic box to deliver on the single person household trend. and NGO Think Olga have also partnered to launch a guide to empower single women travelling alone.

4. Inclusion and empowerment

12 of the 25 campaigns in the running for the innovation award at Cannes Lions addressed the issue of inequality in some capacity. We were shown campaigns such as Tommy Hilfiger’s Independence, with the mission to define people by their passions and abilities, not by their disabilities, to make the world a more inclusive place, one fashion innovation at a time. But there was also a stark lesson for brands in that they must ensure they go beyond marketing campaigns and take real action.

Some great examples were those that showed a shift change in workplace dynamics of the future as brands discover and hire previously excluded groups. Japan has some great examples of this, in part because unemployment is so low. From grannies in trainers delivering Uber Eats to DAWN ver.β, where café robot waiters are wirelessly controlled by paralysed people using tablets or computers.

5. The wellness economy

If that wasn’t enough, we’re also in the ‘on-demand decade’ and frequently feel under pressure to be always on to deliver at any moment, whether that’s for our job, family, friends, our homes, the environment etc. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has even added occupational burnout to its International Classification of Diseases.

It’s a vicious cycle — the pursuit of self-care and self-improvement takes up a lot of energy. In 2020, it’s predicted that organisations will be quick to address the pressures of modern life in meaningful ways. One example of this is how Instagram is trialling the removal of how many likes you get on your post in Canada and Australia, helping to free its users from the pressure of proving status to improve mental wellbeing. Also in Australia, accounting firm EY announced it would begin offering its employees in 12 weeks of annual unpaid “life leave”, to travel, work part-time or just enjoy time off.

As for New Zealand, it’s the first western country to design its entire budget around wellbeing priorities with policies and budget dedicated to improve wellbeing.

All five trends give us all a lot to think about as we ramp up to 2020! What can you do to drive change in these areas?

For more information about Wildfire’s consumer tech clients, experience and services click here

Zoe McFarland

Zoe has over six years’ B2B technology PR experience across a variety of sectors, including artificial intelligence, cyber security, IT software, marketing technology, 3D printing and Unified Communications. With a flair for media relationships, Zoe has also honed her skills in other complementary areas, including international agency network management, events co-ordination and product launches. Zoe prides herself on delivering stand-out results for clients and immerses herself in their businesses to make sure the right message gets to the right media. Always on top of the latest trends, Zoe has a love for news-jacking and a passion for injecting new ideas for maximum campaign impact. Zoe is also the office panda enthusiast – not that it would take you long to notice once you see her desk!